Economy

Birth control drive engages full gear

contraceptives

Packets of contraceptives. An existing gap in family planning campaigns is blamed for rapid population growth. Up to Sh3 billion will be spent on a campaign which targets to reduce the population growth rate from 2.9 per cent to 2.1 per cent per year, the global average.Photo/STEPHEN MUDIARI

A countrywide birth control campaign is set to be launched on Tuesday as the government comes to terms with rapid population growth that is undermining efforts to fight poverty and achieve Vision 2030 industrialisation goals.

Up to Sh3 billion will be spent on the campaign which targets to reduce the population growth rate from 2.9 per cent to 2.1 per cent per year, the global average.

“We have secured about Sh523 million from the Ministry of Health for the purchase of family planning commodities,” said the National Council for Population and Development (NCPD).

deputy director for communication and advocacy George Kichamu.

The Ministry of Planning said in press notice that the campaign would seek to replicate the gains of similar campaigns two decades ago which have been rolled back by increased access to medical services that had led to reduction in the mortality rate.

“Families have had little control over their birth rate due to lack of information and access to facilities,” the notice said.

Infant mortality was put at 52 per thousand in 2009 while the average number of children born per woman is 4.6. During the campaigns in the 1990s the number of children per woman reduced from 8 to 5.

Infant mortality rate for children under one year has improved 77 deaths per thousand in 2003. with that of children aged less than five improving from the 115 children in 2003 to 74 three years ago.

“Parents should therefore not fear that some of their children will die young and therefore feel the need to sire more,” added Mr Kichamu. A population growing at a rate higher than a country’s GDP growth rate is usually a signal of lower income per capita or increasing poverty. At the current population growth rate, the economy would need to grow by more than 12 per cent for the country to achieve its development objectives.

The census results released in 2010 indicate that Kenya’s population now stands at 38.6 million placing huge hurdles on the country’s path towards the realisation of Vision 2030. The population was at 28.7 million people in 1999, 21.4 million in 1989 and 15.3 million 1979.

Mr Kichamu said family planning programmes have been shelved for years due to competing needs for limited funds against programs such as the HIV/ Aids control program.

“A shift in priorities eroded the momentum leading to gaps in service provision and awareness,” said Mr Kichamu. In Kenya, a section of politicians are campaigning actively against family planning talk with some even paying women to conceive.

The 2010 census showed that 14.1 million people were attending school, another 14.2 million had left school at various levels and that 6.1 million had not attended school at all.

“The number of young people in Kenya is almost half the total population and less than the job market can support. The government is therefore taking precaution to avoid a crisis of unemployment,” said Mr Murungaru Kimani, a senior lecturer at the Institute of Population Studies at the University of Nairobi.

Mr Kichamu said the campaign will focus on community-based programmes involving women groups to drive the messages.

The Division of Reproductive Health under the public health ministry is also expected to revamp its service provision in order to tackle the issue of stocks running out and also improve the options available.

“There is a huge unmet need of 25 per cent women who either want to space their pregnancies or limit the number of children they bear but are not using any method,” said Muraguri Muchira, the Director of Programmes at Family Health Options Kenya.

“These are the vulnerable persons who need to be addressed urgently if we are to plug the population growth.”

During the launch of the African Economic Outlook report last year, Planning minister Wycliffe Oparanya announced that government would increase its funding towards family planning services.

 “Our population structure poses a critical challenge of addressing the rising youth unemployment rates and their potential adverse consequences on social stability,” said Mr Oparanya.

The opportunity cost of the growing population is less spending on infrastructure, health, education, environment and other social and economic sectors.

A Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS) conducted in 2009 shows that family planning services is widely available in all types of facilities - 80 per cent of clinics and 89 cent of dispensaries.

The report states that only two-thirds of facilities in Nairobi and North Eastern provinces are offering any modern methods, compared to more than 9 in 10 facilities in Rift Valley, Western, and Nyanza provinces.

At the same time, long-term methods such as male or female sterilisation are less widely available with only 8 per cent of facilities providing them as opposed to the 46 per cent provision of the services at hospitals.
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